A Russian soldier has been charged in absentia with war crimes after intercepting audio files

Izyum, Ukraine (CNN) a Russian soldier who allegedly shot a civilian in an extraordinary attack caught on camera by a Ukrainian drone is accused of this attack war crimes In absentia by the Ukrainian police.

The evidence file against him includes phone calls between the soldier, his wife and a friend that were intercepted during a months-long investigation into the Russian attack near Izyum city last June.

The audio files were shared exclusively with CNN ahead of a news conference in Kharkiv announcing the accusations on Tuesday.

Police identified the soldier as Klim Kirzhaev, a 25-year-old captain from Moscow, who served in the 2nd Motorized Rifle Division of the 1st Tank Army in the Western Military District. He is charged with attempted murder of a civilian – a war crime under Article 438 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

The attack was also captured in aerial footage by Ukrainian soldiers, who launched a unique rescue mission by attaching a piece of paper with the words “Follow Me” to a small drone – an operation featured in a recent documentary by Ukrainian director Lyubomir Levitsky. .

“We are watching this as if it was on TV, like a TV series. A horror movie in which Russians kill civilians,” Serhiy Polvinov, head of the investigative department of the Kharkiv police, told CNN.

In addition to the drone footage, Polvinov said their investigation included forensic examinations of the vehicle and location — conducted after the liberation of Izyum by Ukrainian forces in September — along with evidence collected by cyberpolice who tracked the soldier’s social media accounts and phone calls.

CNN requested comment on the issue from the Russian Defense Ministry at the time of its publication on Tuesday, after the information embargo was lifted.

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Poulvinov said this is just one of hundreds of alleged Russian war crimes his team is currently investigating in the Kharkiv region alone, including the discovery of hundreds of bodies in mass graves in Izyum. He has more than 900 investigators on his team, and most of their current work is focused on war crimes cases.

On Friday, and The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants On behalf of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian official Maria Lvova Belova – on charges of illegal deportation of thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia.

Their lives could have ended

Last summer, married couple Valeria Ponomarova and Andriy Bohomaz were driving to Izyum in Ukraine to help Bohomaz’s sick and elderly parents escape the Russian-controlled city.

The pair make a wrong turn and inadvertently stray near the front lines where the Russian forces are stationed, and their car is hit by incoming fire.

Ukrainian soldiers stationed nearby monitored the incident from afar using a reconnaissance drone – they sent it close to the scene to capture unusual footage of the couple trying to flee.

The video shows the couple leaving the car to run to safety, but turning around when explosions landed near them. They are shot again, badly wounding Bohms. Ponomarova tried to move her husband behind the car and wrap towels around his wounds to stop the bleeding.

Russian soldiers were stationed about 30 meters (98 ft) away from the couple’s car, according to the police, so it was too dangerous for the Ukrainian forces to remove the couple.

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So they returned the drone after recharging it and attaching it to a white piece of paper with the words “Follow me” — to guide Ponomarova to a safer area.

She saw a drone in the sky, but she wasn’t sure where to go. “I turned around and just fell to my knees and screamed the most painful cry,” said Valeria Ponomarova. “I did not know [whose drone] He was. “Our forces or the enemy,” she later said during the documentary.

Ponomarova said she eventually followed the drone, believing it was the only way to help her injured husband.

But as soon as she left, a team of Russian soldiers approached the car on foot, picked up the wounded Bohms and threw him into a nearby ditch.

Miraculously survived.

Conversations full of insults

Drone footage showed that Ponomarova did not see this happening behind her, as she continued on foot on the scarred path, even snaking around rows of anti-tank mines.

When the soldiers succeeded in getting Ponomarova to safety, they told her that it was not possible to return for her husband, as Russian forces were on the scene.

To date, a Russian soldier has been charged. In addition to the drone footage, evidence collected against him by Ukrainian investigators includes recordings of intercepted phone calls to his wife and a friend.

In one expletive-laced conversation, the soldier tells his wife that he “killed a man today” after shooting a car from his Soviet-era infantry fighting vehicle. Immediately after, the soldier returns to casual talk, telling his wife to “put some money on my phone today, okay?”

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On call with a friend a day later, he repeated his confession to killing a man, and when his friend asked him how he felt, he replied, “The replica car was shot. **.” CNN has translated raw audio intercepts provided by police, but can’t independently verify the files. .

Bohms managed to dig himself out of the trench to call for help despite severe injuries.

“I heard it was starting to rain and I started shaking,” Bohms said in the documentary Follow Me. “After a night in the trench I came to my senses from the rain.”

“I understood that I had to get out somehow,” he added.

Bohomaz managed to reach safety towards the Ukrainian position.

“It took about 30 or 40 minutes,” he said. “But I walked haltingly, because I was in so much pain.”

Nine months after surviving the attack, Bohumaz is still undergoing treatment for multiple shrapnel injuries to his brain, chest and spine.

CNN reached out to the couple for comment on the legal proceedings launched against the Russian soldier, but did not receive a response.

“It’s a terrible crime,” said Polvinov. Their lives could have ended at this crossroads, but fortunately they managed to survive.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Klim Kerzhaev’s age. He is 25 years old

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